Interlude: Kaleidoscope II

“Fear is the mother of character. Without it we remain children until death.”
-Queen Elizabeth Alban of Callow

Vivienne had once spent a few days running a shell game in the streets of Southpool, when she’d still been an apprentice under the Guild. It hadn’t been about the coin, for she could have made a hundred times the coppers from burgling a single noble house. Her teacher had teased her about it, calling her a petty hustler instead of a thief, but what she’d learned had been well worth a few sardonic comments. Confidence tricks were about sleight of hand, but also about reading the other side. Gauging how much of a taste you had to give them before the fleecing, how much you could squeeze out of them before things got ugly. She’d learned more about diplomacy over those three lazy days than through years of lessons. It was why she’d pressed to be the one sent to speak with the Proceran envoys, that and the undeniable fact that if Marshal Juniper went instead it would be a bloody disaster. The orc had a place as one of the larger cogs in the kingdom’s machinery, but she was useless in all matters not military. That the Marshal of Callow seemed under the impression that her judgement off the battlefield should ever be seriously considered was just a mark of the greenskin’s arrogance.

A child that screamed ‘kill them all and eat them’ every time you glanced at them would be about as useful.

Thief had been forced to lean on the open trust Catherine had shown her in the past to be nominated, and the heavy-handedness had won her no friends in the general staff – which essentially ran the camp while Cat slumbered. The usual deference shown to Named by mundane apparently thinned when said Named had been late to join the cause. Callowans listened to her, and her role as spymistress of the kingdom meant she had most everyone’s ear, but there were few of her countrymen high up in the ranks save for Grandmaster Talbot. For all that the rank and file of the Army of Callow drew increasingly from her people, the senior officers were still largely from from the three legions Catherine had brought to her banner. Vivienne saw no need to take issue with that. Officers died and retired, and the Legions promoted strictly from within the ranks. Her countrymen would keep rising up the ladder until ‘Army of Callow’ was more than a name. Any halfway decent thief knew that patience was as useful a tool as action, and Vivienne was a better thief than most. More importantly, after securing her role she’d had free hand to deal with the envoys as she wished.

First off, there would be no talk of allowing them into the camp. Let them remain outside under their banner with the morning sun pounding down. They’d shown up around Morning Bell, so Vivienne had let them stew outside for another hour. There was no guarantee she would manage to fool the opposition, and the longer they stayed there the better the chances of Catherine or Masego waking up. She’d not dared to let them wait longer than that. If she did, it might be recognized as the temporizing it was. An hour should just be taken as an insult instead of betraying the relative weakness of the Callowan position. She’d gone out alone to meet them, afterwards. Vivienne knew she could master her own body language if she concentrated, but anyone else was a risk. The two men were still standing when she arrived, and discreetly she studied them as she drew near. One was obvious, the wrinkly old man they knew as the Grey Pilgrim. The other was known to her as well, as it turned out. The distinct nose marked him as a relative of Prince Amadis Milenan and the long curly locks were distinctive enough she recognized them from a sketch her Jacks had obtained. Jacques Milenan, a younger cousin to the Prince of Iserre. His mother was… from an Alamans royal line, though she could not recall which one at the moment. The man was supposed to be high in Milenan’s council. Which meant they were taking this seriously.

While she’d assessed them, they’d assessed her. The Pilgrim’s face was perfectly calm, a mask she suspected he’d worn for so long there had come to be some truth to it. Vivienne knew something of pretending to be someone for long enough the deception grew roots and leaves. Thief swaggered forward, producing her flask and pulling at the brandy inside. She sloppily wiped her mouth after and silently used her aspect to trade the flask for an identical one that was the same drink, only heavily watered. Now she just had to let her breath do the lying, and they’d assume her to be less sober than she truly was. The Wandering Bard had taught her the uses of fooling others into thinking you an incompetent drunk.

“Greetings,” the Proceran said, inclining his head. “I am-“

“Jacques Milenan,” Thief interrupted lightly. “I know who you are, crusader.”

“And you are the Thief,” the Pilgrim said calmly.

He was leaning on his staff, Vivienne noted as she approached. Genuine tiredness or a ploy?

“That’s me,” she chuckled, making sure the breeze carried the smell of brandy.

She drank from the switched flask. The mundane envoy did not quite manage to hide his disdain.

“Request was made to treat with the Black Queen herself,” the Pilgrim said.

“That’s funny,” Thief said. “That you think you’re still in a position to make demands, I mean. I was under the impression a fifth of your army got wiped and you were one week away from beginning to dabble with cannibalism.”

“Has the queen refused to receive us, then?” the Pilgrim asked.

“Your side sends some spare kinsman and a man who tried to kill her, then expect Catherine to come out to make small talk?” Vivienne snorted. “I thought high-handed arrogance was a Proceran specialty, Pilgrim.”

“If you will not treat in good will, there is no need to treat at all,” the Milenan said flatly.

She shrugged.

“So walk,” she said. “How much good will do you think you’ve earned, princeling? You invade our kingdom, attempt murder of our anointed queen and all the while plan to carve up our lands to dispense as favours. If every last one of you dies drowning, I will not shed a damned tear over it.”

The old man’s eyes narrowed. Not because of her words, at least not exactly. Because he’d been able to tell she was speaking the truth. He’d not expected a former heroine, if she’d ever truly been that, to say as much. The very reason Vivienne had said it: she needed to confirm whether or not he could still discern truth from lies, and the sentence was incendiary enough it should garner reaction. Good. She had confirmed it. Bad. He still had the ability, even when visibly tired. That complicated things, not that she’d expected the Heavens to provide relief. She wasn’t hanging with a crowd on their good side, nowadays.

“Negotiations with a lieutenant would not be binding,” the Pilgrim said.

“I can speak with my queen’s authority,” Vivienne said, and it was technically true.

She watched the hero closely as she spoke, trying to find out if that would register as lie. She’d never actually said that Catherine had given her mandate today, and in theory it wasn’t impossible for the Queen of Callow to grant this particular authority to her one day. The old man’s face remained unmoving, but that told her nothing. He was too clever to be caught through a visible tell twice.

“My instructions,” Jacques Milenan said, “are to treat with none but the Black Queen herself.”

“Black Queen’s not coming out for the likes of you,” Thief said, another technical truth. “Come back with your cousin or Princess Malanza and the matter will be reconsidered.”

If that worked, it might get them through the morning before the enemy realized a game was afoot. If it didn’t, well, all they had was suspicions. They had to be wary of a repeat of yesterday.

“This is not how proper diplomacy is conducted,” the Proceran stiffly said.

Vivienne toasted him with her flask.

“You’ll note my Name is not ‘the Diplomat’,” she replied, and took another pull.

She could feel the Pilgrim’s eyes on her. Searching, measuring.

“Then I would request audience with the queen personally,” the old man said.

“Unless you’ve suddenly gained a principality or right of command over the host, your function here is purely decorative,” Thief replied. “As far as I’m concerned you have no right to make that request.”

The hero sighed.

“I am willing to provide healing to wounded in exchange for the audience,” he said.

“Chosen,” the Proceran said. “Surely you cannot be serious.”

Thief drank from the flask again so her face would not be visible to read. This… Would Catherine and Masego qualify as wounded? She was not certain they would. And if they didn’t, she would be revealing their state for no gain. It would also mean taking the man at his word, which she hesitated to do. She’d ran with William’s crew long enough to know some of the more pragmatic heroes had notions about whether promises made to the Enemy needed to be kept. On the other hand, if those two could be healed most of the army’s problems went away.  That, she decided, was worth the risk. The flask left her lips.

“An oath to the Heavens,” she said. “Of my own wording.”

“No,” the Grey Pilgrim said.

“Fine,” she conceded, idly waving her drink. “We can word it together.”

“You misunderstand me, child,” the old man said. “There will be no healing.”

“No audience either, then,” she shrugged. “We’ll expect an answer within the hour about whether or not Prince Milenan or Princess Malanza will be coming.”

“That will not happen either,” the Pilgrim said calmly. “You have betrayed yourself.”

Vivienne’s heartbeat quickened, but she kept her face smiling.

“Have I?” she drawled. “Then, by all means, take another swing. After you’re driven back, expect the cost of supplies to rise accordingly.”

The old man met her eyes with equanimity.

“You were a heroine, once,” he said.

“And just like that, you lost my interest,” Thief said. “See you around, gentlemen. I’d recommend your backers check on the state of their coffers before ordering an offensive. My heart would just weep if the price of retreat was destitution.”

And with that last lie ringing in the air, she turned and swaggered away. Shit. She’d been had. She’d put a good face on it, but on someone like the Grey Pilgrim the odds of it fooling him were depressingly low. Fuck.

Time to see how well they could bluff with an empty hand, then.

“She will be incapacitated,” Tariq said. “Not dead, for the Thief still had hope, but the Black Queen was hurt by the shattering of the gate.”

Princess Rozala considered the matter with due seriousness, to his approval. The young woman had been robbed of true morals by her uprising, but her mother had instilled her with a sense of honour and duty that allowed some small sliver of them to remain. She was forgiven this, for the fault was not her own. Children could not help what they were taught. Tariq held great hopes that the horrors of this war and the others to come would allow her to grow into the woman she could have been. It was a small thing, in this sea of darkness, but every speck of light drove back the night. It did not matter that the candle was small or passing, only that it burned. It was good to remember old wisdom, in days like these. The well-worn truths helped bring perspective to it all. Creation was imperfect, and would be until its very last breath. All the Heavens required of their children was to leave it a little brighter than they had found it. A hundred thousand pebbles make a tower, one piece at a time.

“Then we resume our offensive,” Princess Rozala said quietly. “Gods forgive us all, if we are wrong.”

The old man stilled his tongue as the Princess of Aequitan began discussing marching orders, watching the men and women at the table. These four, two princes and two princesses, were the mortal heart of this crusade. Or at least the part of it here in the north. Prince Amadis Milenan held the most sway, and it was to him the First Prince had granted command, but the Iserran had become almost self-effacing since the butchery of yesterday. He deferred to the general of the host in all things, and in him Tariq read both fear and cunning. The possibility of defeat, before thought absurd, had shaken him. Yet he was also subtly inviting Princess Rozala to overstep her authority, to further isolate herself from the other royals of the host by giving unpopular orders. Even now that he had glimpsed the abyss, the man schemed. The rot went deep in this one. Though we be flawed instruments, we may yet serve greater purpose, the Pilgrim chided himself. Imperfection was not sin but the very design of the Gods. Salvation without temptation was meaningless. The failure of a man to recognize his weakness should be met with pity and not blame.

The other two royals were smaller flames to these two, he would admit. Princess Adeline of Orne was young in a way that had little to do with age, and still bleeding from her brother’s death. He grieved with her for the loss, though he’d not known the man. The wake of his passing was recommendation enough for his nature. The princess sought alliance with Princess Rozala, and Tariq read admiration in Adeline’s heart when she gazed at the other woman. There could be friendship forged there, if trust bloomed, and they would both be happier for it. The Pilgrim half-smiled. Perhaps a helping hand could be leant to the matter. The last was Prince Arnaud of Cantal, and what the old man glimpsed there had surprised him. Laurence was a creature of pure instinct, having spent her lifetime blurring the boundary between thought and act, and her intuition was a sharp thing. Yet the Pilgrim had doubted her, when she’d said that one was the most dangerous of the lot. No longer so now that he had gazed within. All that lay there was patience and the utter absence of emotion. Tariq watched as the man blustered, speaking foolishly of sweeping advance, and how all the others dismissed him in their eyes. Even Prince Amadis, who thought himself the cleverest of them all.

All the others had warmed to Tariq, after Laurence acted as offensively in councils as she could. Offered him trust, treated him as the man of reason holding back the reckless Saint of Swords. All of them save Prince Arnaud of Cantal.

“I trust the Chosen will participate in the assault?” Prince Amadis asked.

Face never betraying that his attention had waned, the Pilgrim nodded.

“I have already spoken with Laurence,” he said. “Save for the Rogue Sorcerer and the Forsworn Healer, we will split with the armies and fight with the soldiers.”

Queen Catherine had brutalized the children, but not beyond repair. Antoine’s arm had been reattached, and another greatsword found for him to wield. With the coming of dawn, Tariq had been able to Forgive the death of Mansurin. The young man, displaying the famous fortitude of the Champion lines, had only been spurred to greater zeal by his stay Above. Little Sidonia, with her laughing eyes and quick wit, would have to remain under shroud of preservation until tomorrow. The Pilgrim still ached at the memory of seeing the young heroes reaped like wheat as he was held back by the Hierophant. He and Laurence had known that the best chance to spare lives was to slay the Black Queen early in the battle, and that to draw her out the children were the one bait she would not refuse. He regretted it still. Resurrection left a scar on the soul, always. No one could be ripped from the embrace of the Gods without finding Creation and faded and brutish place for the rest of their days, even if the memory of the Heavens was withheld. The Pilgrim excused himself as the council ended, paying due courtesies before returning to his own.

He found Laurence standing by the marshlands madness had made, repeatedly taking her sword an inch out of the sheath and sliding it back down. She was uneasy, then. Tariq came to stand by her side but did not speak. She would do so herself, when she was ready.

“I don’t like this,” the Saint finally said. “Feels wrong.”

He did not contradict her. Though Tariq had been granted insights, they were into the souls of mortals. Laurence de Montfort’s strength had come differently. Her sword had reached the Heavens, and by touching the divine with steel she had attained a sensitivity to the lay of Creation he had never seen the equal of in all his years. If she was troubled, there was reason for it.

“She may rise,” the Pilgrim said. “The shape of it is there. Wounded or unconscious, those she loves besieged, she may return to offer salvation at the darkest hour.”

“And that’s not a villain’s story, Tariq,” the woman grunted. “She’s hard to predict, and that’ll get people killed. You’re sure about what you saw?”

The Grey Pilgrim let out a tired breath.

“What Catherine Foundling craves above all is peace,” he murmured. “On chosen terms, perhaps, but peace nonetheless.”

His heart had broken a little to see it. That even though she had butchered all that she was, the little girl within was still desperately grasping at the light she’d once glimpsed Above.

“She killed thousands,” Laurence said. “And she’ll kill more, if she squeaks away here. Compassion’s not my wheelhouse, but whoever made her into what she is deserves a slow and painful death. She’s been twisted. No one sane would ever do what she did to her own soul.”

The child herself, the Pilgrim suspected, would be infuriated to hear someone speak of her that way. Her embrace of her own mistakes rivalled any flagellant’s.

“It is going to be a long war,” Tariq whispered, the weight of the years heavy on his shoulders.

“Longer for us than most,” Laurence replied, barking out a laugh. “We’ll be part of the five, old friend. You can be sure of it. I already feel the pull.”

The Pilgrim looked up at mockingly sunny skies. There would be a time, after the war turned here and the Red Flower Vales broke, where the Heavens would assemble their sharpest blade. The ancient forms would be observed. Five heroes, sent into the breach to quell the howling dark. Young Hanno would lead them, for the Seraphim had shaped him to the duty. As for the faces of the others, they could only guess. That charming young Valiant Champion was likely, as she’d followed the White Knight before. And there would have to be a practitioner. The most powerful of these was the Witch of the Woods, should she survive her confrontation with the Warlock. And the two of us, the Pilgrim added silently. Relics of an age already past, dusted off one last time. There was always a price to pay, to end the rise of Evil. Tariq hoped it was the two of them instead of young lives cut down before their prime.

“She’ll be there too,” Tariq said. “She always is.”

“Surprised she hasn’t dropped in yet,” the Saint admitted. “But it doesn’t smell like a brewery, and that’s fairly telling.”

“That worries me as much as your unease,” the Pilgrim said. “For if she has not yet appeared…”

“The worse is yet to come,” Laurence finished. “There’s a cheerful thought.”

She sighed and stretched her limbs.

“Well, no point putting it off,” she said. “Let’s go kill some people.”

So spoke Saint of Swords. The Regicide, to the Principate. The Smiling Iron, to the Chain of Hunger. The Fool-That-Cut-Nothing, to no one still living.

“Let’s put an end to this war,” he replied. “Before it gets worse.”

So spoke the Grey Pilgrim, whose names were too many to number. Fleet-foot and Patient Hand, the Kindly Stranger and the Peregrine.

Silence followed and legends went to war.

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193 thoughts on “Interlude: Kaleidoscope II

  1. danh3107

    And lo were my balls blue once more…

    But instead of pure blue ballery this interlude is more like being edged, because damn if it wasn’t a pretty good chapter.

    Liked by 8 people

      1. Sniggs

        I dunno, I kinda thought she did a really shit job myself. She arrogantly walked into the meeting vs. a guy with limited mind reading abilities without even putting together the basics of a plan. Did she even consult Juniper, Aisha, Ratface, et al.? The former would have given her advice on when to keep her mouth shut instead of using back-alley bluffing techniques, so it’d have been harder for Thief to get caught in a lie. The latter two would have helped her anticipate likely strategies (like a healer offering them healing…), so Thief could have had a script to work off of.

        Instead she got baited in via a pretty low-level greed play on Pilgrim’s part, had to weigh the pros/cons on the spot (huge tell right there), and then finally accepted a “deal” that Cat would never in a million years have gone for. Letting a god-tier status Hero waltz into your base of operations to heal your redshirts? Really Thief?

        I was supremely unimpressed with her. Not that it’s necessarily her fault, since she’s kinda low-level in general and inexperienced with these plays in particular, but her “I’ll just wing it” arrogance was a tad infuriating.

        Also, now that Cat’s crew has determined that Heroes’ cold-reading/mind-reading skills are both somewhat common and tend to be ridiculously effective at high levels, maybe it’s time to start putting some contingencies in place? Like AI-in-a-box style ones? You can’t get caught in a lie by the supernatural lie detector if you don’t speak to them in the first place.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Decius

          Thief’s mistake was in bargaining for an audience. The right response to the offer of healing would be “I will tell the queen of your offer, but it will not be accepted unless you are willing to make an oath”. Then go back, think out of sight of the guy with stacked Sense Motive, and work out what oath to demand that will have the desired effect (Grey Pilgrim makes Heroic Effort to recover Cat and Heirarch, and doesn’t reveal their weakness in any case) without the demand of the oath revealing that those are the conditions.

          But Thief thinks too quickly to not take the camp condition into account, but not quickly enough to outwit.

          Alternately, work with mages on temporary memory alteration, and go out utterly convinced of what you want the enemy to believe.

          Liked by 4 people

        2. Hate from a smart phone

          it’s not like she lied. Pilgrim saw a sliver of hope, that’s all it took. That her bluff failed is more a testament of how ridiculous grey wizards are.
          The alternatives would have been “normal people” vs Named and, frankly, Thief is the best at hiding stuff and, amonsgt the remaining staff, the best at handling “name” stuff overall. I don’t think the other officers would have given such specific advices against healing bait.
          And technically, she made them wait for a whole hour. So, not a complete fail. But then again, the weight of the current story makes such a wait inconsequential : at this point Catherine will wake when she is needed.

          So yeah, Catherine would have certainly negociated better, Hakram might have. Thief did a good try.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. MagnaMalusLupus

          Except it wasn’t that she was caught in a lie, because she didn’t actually lie. Her mistake was in thinking he could detect truth, where as he could actually detect emotion. He purposefully dangled powerful healing in front of her to see if she reacted with hope, despair, or mild interest, which would correspond to incapacitated, dead, or perfectly fine. It’s a neat trick. He’s also an asshole.

          Liked by 9 people

        4. Morgenstern

          Redshirts? oO She never ONCE considered healing *redshirts*. The only thing she greedily considered was forcing him to heal *Cat and Masego*. Those two are NOT redshirts in any sense any longer, even though they have not reached the level of the Calamities yet…

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    1. Adra

      I can’t really bring myself to blame her. We pretty much got confirmation in this chapter that Pilgrim has maxed out ranks on Sense Motive and a WIS-based class.

      Also, if I read that right, his Forgive aspect can do the true resurrection that Masego was talking about a few chapters back.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. One of Pilgrim’s “blindesses” is he is so focued on fighting the EVUL gods that oppose his GUD gods that he cannot see the evil that his side commits. If Procer conquers Callow, it could quite possibly be worse for Callow than when Praes conquered them.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. mavant

            That’s not really a weakness in the munchkinry sense, so much as a personal weakness. The Black Knight trades reduced personal power for aspects that are useful in leading an army. The Pilgrim has extraordinary personal power both in direct combat (super lasers???) and in healing (one resurrection per day, even of someone who died a day or two prior?) and in diplomacy (Sense Motive maxed, as observed elsewhere). So what’s his dump stat? Or is he too pure for tragic flaws?

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            1. Ex

              As a Wise Old Man, Pilgrim doesn’t necessarily have flaws or a dump stat. His actual tradeoff is that he has to die shortly after appearing on screen in order to further the story. Overpowered mentors exist for that purpose.

              Liked by 2 people

            2. TeK

              Thinking RPG-esque here, but he seem pretty well rounded on pretty every stat. So his dump stat might be luck, or it’s being NPC, who can’t act outside of scripted actions.

              Liked by 1 person

            3. grzecho2222

              He seems to lack anti-mob attacks, he defleckts, parries and has attack against single person but it seems like he has nothing against bunch of normal mortals

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            4. It is possible that he doesn’t have any tragic flaws. It’s not like all Names have access to the same amount of power, or must give up equally as much as they gain. Black Knight vs White Knight would be a fairer comparison to make, as opposed to the Black Knight vs Grey Pilgrim.

              If you think the Grey Pilgrim is OP, think about the Dead King.

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      1. Raved Thrad

        Does Catherine still have Take? If so, wouldn’t it be fitting revenge for her to Take that away from Pilgrim? “I’m going to raise each and every one of my people you killed here. And then I’m going to make all your dead Rise. And then I’m going to show you what happens to people who invade my kingdom.”

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          1. Raved Thrad

            Sigh. Well, at least we can still look forward to the second part. A swarm of thousands of undead! Procer faces a zombie apocalypse! 😀

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              1. Metrux

                That’s not really a new power, and neither a replacement. She has replaced no aspect, because she is still transitioning into a new Name. This is just the result of her studies with Masego, learning to harness her Mantle as fae. Otherwise, yes, she can probabl make some temporary artifact out of him, since all her artifacts made this way are temporary and limited, while still been usefull.

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              2. Morgenstern

                Nah, “Take” was replaced by the Hunger of Winter. Winter devours (aka takes) everything. It just devours a bit more than Take ever did… including Cat’s Name. Oops. But hey, she has Fae powers now, instead, that she only BARELY learned to control/exploit yet, so what the heck. She’s way more powerful now. She just needs to be wary of the restrictions/pitfalls coming with being fae and allowing Winter too much reign, that’s the trade-off, not losing less powerful aspects… She has everything she had before, including the self-healing, and MORE…

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      2. Jonnnney

        Her entire training in diplomacy was running a shell game for 3 whole days. I sure as hell can fucking blame her for being too arrogant to even ask the opinion of a single living soul before trying to outwit a hero with 60 years of experience.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Metrux

          I don’t disagree she did wrong, but you’re not seeing the whole picture. She WAS trained in diplomacy by the other thiefs in the guild, she just noted that she learned more in those 3 days than all the years of training.

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    1. Yotz

      Cat and Masego, I’d wager – they need a practitioner.
      Although a negligent possibility, it would be so glorious to see the Hierarch being the Fifth instead of the Bard.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Blue

      Nope Catherine, The Dead King, and Triumphant , when she returns, will form their own party, and take apart the gods above and below because the gods are the real evil. Think Zion in Worm. All those granted powers but why??

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A part of me really wants the emotionless prince to be Assassin. Also, given how much the old heroes think the worst is yet to come, I’m betting either Masego or Cat come out of their stupor with something nasty. I’m curious what it will be though.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The Chosen One

        Yeah, but if you think about it, walking onto the battlefield and drowning thousands of soldiers one at a time, with a bucket, might actually be more disturbing.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. werafdsaew

    > She may rise…she may return to offer salvation at the darkest hour.

    Waking up in the nick of time with a powerup confirmed!

    > She’ll be there too

    Ranger?

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    1. Nope. Someone that the Heroes have worked with in the past. Someone who has always fought hard – possibly harder than anyone else – to preserve the cause of Good. Some of the readers hate her, but she is, always has been, and always will be a Hero.
      The Wandering Bard.

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  4. I love the acknowledgement that the two Heroes give, and the mentions of the behind the scenes machinations that the Pilgrim has set in motion. All this time he’s come across as a genuine All Loving Hero rather than a murderous leroy jenkins granted heavenly power. But all this time he’s been working the Princes like Malicia or Cordelia. He’s starting to show his dastardly side, and once a Hero gives a hint of that, they get a death flag with Catherine’s name all over it. This, I think, was alluded to here – Saint said she could feel the pull towards her part in the final Five Man Band, but the Pilgrim made no such statement. I wonder – if the choice was between killing Catherine, or saving her so that she could take his place as a Hero in that group, which would he choose?
    That said – something BAD is coming, and coming fast. Dead King? Maybe. Probably. He’s been theorized to be the counterweight to the Wandering Bard, and according to the Heroes who appear to have worked with her before, she only shows up when the worst is about to occur. She might be down in the Red Flower Vales, fighting Black, but I doubt it. Showing up to the party to face off with her supposed Counterpart? That smells like a Big Damn Heroes moment, and Tropes are where she lives.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mr. Nobody

      I’ve been saying this for a while now, but I’ll say it again: Maybe the “Five-band man” pull she’s feeling is because she WILL be part of one, though her role in the team is going to be “The Sword of Woe”.(As an Artifact of Catherine)

      Really, I just can’t help but see Saint’s confidence as a large death flag written “Aspect reserved for Catherine Foundling and waiting to be weaponized”.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. RanVor

      Gods Above hate Catherine because her very existence defies them, and they’re sore losers. They just can’t stand not being in the right for once.

      Liked by 4 people

    3. Oh man, I haven’t even thought about that yet, but . . . it would be SO awesome if Catherine received a “neutral” Name and became part of that Five Man Band of the Heroes, fighting Triumphant / the Dead King / whatever doom approaches. The interactions between the members of the group would be hilarious.

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      1. RanVor

        Cat already is a part of a Five-Man Band. And I don’t think it’s possible, there’s way too much bad blood between her and the Heroes to just forget everything that happened. Not to mention the Heavens would never allow their lackeys to team up with Cat.

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      2. John Laing

        She’s already got a title of fae nobility, which seems to be the closest thing to a “neutral Name” the setting’s metaphysics can readily support.

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        1. blarg

          Fae titles are divided by court. Her court, Winter, is the Arcadian equivalent to villainy, whereas Summer is the Arcadian equivalent to heroism. (Presumably the other two courts, of spring and autumn, have a similar dynamic.) She’s not neutral in her power alignment, she’s just the over-the-top fairy version of Evil instead of the regular mortal version.

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        2. Metrux

          You readily forgot Ranger and some of her trainees. THEY are the neutral Names, although some of the trainees areeither Heroes or Villains.

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      3. Taichi22

        The way I’m seeing this going in my head is Cat somehow shutting down both of the 5-man bands from the Gods Above and Below, either by brokering a peace or breaking their stories and killing them.

        Like

    4. Yotz

      The Dead King starts the overwhelming invasion, throwing at opposition everything up to and including the mystical Teapot of Russ el Jameson.

      Plot twist: the Dead Kingdom inhabitants are actually refugees – _something_ (may it never return) is chasing them from their ancestral lands and Hells…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Raved Thrad

        That brings up an interesting point: for all their posturing _now_, why haven’t the heroes ever done anything to try and unseat the Dead King? I don’t see why they’re so insistent that Catherine is a boil on the face of creation that needs to be lanced, when there’s a sorcerer king with a kingdom of undead and a permanent gate to the hells at his command.

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          1. Unorginal

            More than that even, hell one was eaten by a demon of absence and in story no one seems to remember it despite the naming schema missing one number. (I could be wrong about the demon though. if for so and so reason it’s just simply taboo to bring it up or that is was so minor it wasn’t worth mentioning.)

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        1. TeK

          Because since Terribilis II broke down Second and Third Crusade, every other one WAS about Dead King. They spent countless thousands of lives, without ever even breaching walls of Keter. Since Dead King is dormant for know, better deal with the threat, you can realistically deal with.

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          1. Trebar

            Also, necromancer. Each of those failed crusades got raised to increase the size of the Dead King’s army. It’s probably where he got many of those undead Heroes.

            Like

            1. Nethermore

              The Dead King as a counterweight to the Wandering Bard seemed unfair to me considering how Bard flits about and stacks the deck all over the globe apparently while the Dead King is just sitting on his ass, but when you consider that he’s probably the only Named in his kingdom and repelled several crusades that totalled possibly scores of heroes by himself, things start to look more balanced.

              Still doesn’t keep the Bard from being insufferable, though.

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    5. Morgenstern

      I rather think we’re still seeing the effect(s) of Hierarch shutting down the Wandering Bard that the two old legendary heroes are wondering about here, as they do not yet know about it. Keep in mind that all this stuff is not all that far away in time, but rather in distance.

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      1. Hammer boy rises again, thank you author for this sweet wish. i know you did not do it for me but it brings me joy to see that hammer boy will become something more than a throw away. I can see him facing Hakram ina hammer vs axe fight. One on one brawl.

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      2. Yotz

        Oh, don’t you worry – she will be back tomorrow, when ‘once-per-day’ inbuilt codex limitations on use of bullshit Aspects wears off.

        Like

    1. The most frustrating thing is that Cat could be reviving her own people or Heroes she kills, as undead.

      I wonder if she has experimented at all with this power, because when she was fighting through Diabolist’s castle, she had a whole posse of intelligent undead mages that she’d raised.

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      1. Unorginal

        That’s a dangerous story to walk down. As long as she doesn’t acknowledge that part of her power then the story won’t turn against her but if she does then she becomes in part evil-overlady #1001. Not only that but she still finds the idea morally wrong (on some level) as per her upbringing as a Callowan.

        Like

      2. Captain Semantics

        My theory is that at least some of the heroes she’s been killing off asbthey enter Callow (like in the prologue) got raised afterwards.

        Like

  5. Antoninjohn

    The Gods Above are really against Cat here not as much as they will later however when she realizes that the only way to have lasting peace is to take over all of Caleria and form it into the Imperium. To keep it steady and not have the Gods Above ruin it with rebellions she will perform a mighty ritual that will ensure her power over the land, however when the heroes break it the ritual meant to ward against​ Dread Empress Triumphant will instead allow her return, then Cat will unite the people against Triumphant and use propaganda of the returning Triumphant in order to try and stop the peace to discredit them. Remember the Bard talks about how the Gods Above support demon summoning Named over Cat, so the heroes will be supportive of Triumphant, if the people will have a choice Triumphant who will make you crucify your parents or Cat who won’t

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    1. I saw that as backstory.
      She was a young girl desperately wanting to go to war with her older brothers, and made fun of for it. Until she came into her Name. After that Saing left and returned to find her town a ruin.
      She was defeated and spent her time wondering her place in the world, spending every waking moment with her sword in her hand, becoming better until there was no one else that would match her skill. While training she came to inner peace and “scraped the heavens” granting her power she wields now.
      They died not because Saint killed them, but because she wasn’t there to save them.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yotz

      >How could they survive?
      By being obnoxiously powerful?
      If one can neutralize the Saint with a trivial effort, one can give her pet name of “the little bitch” and get away with it. The Dead King counts, being very much not alive, and a powerhouse on mythical scale.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Anon

    First off….this kinda feels like it could have been a continuation of the previous chapter – the ‘pause’ in release makes sense given that there’s a time skip of a few hours, but that being said, it does feel a bit ‘blue-ball-y’.

    Aside from that….Arnaud merely playing the blathering fool all too well, or is the Absence Demon contamination having spread somehow?

    The Saint’s comment about Catherine’s being ‘twisted’ is kind of amusing, to be honest – yes, Black and Malicia played large roles, but at the same time, if Cat really was a fulcrum, that’s equally, if not more so, on Creation’s head. I suppose the pilgrim could be going under the assumption that Cat’s first death, when she used the angel to resurrect with the Lone Swordsman, is the glimpse of heaven she’s searching for now….

    I was hoping we’d get a little more ‘heroic’ insight on Thief’s swapping sides – her betraying sides to join up with Cat is something that I can’t imagine happens all THAT often, given the lines that get drawn, and how easy it would otherwise be for villains to corrupt heroic names. Add that to the fact that ‘thief’ isn’t generally a country-associated role…..

    Interesting comment made by the Pilgrim in that none of the Procerans are truly ‘good’, compared to himself or Laurence. Even Melanza is noted to be decidedly lacking in true goodness.

    Also, I’m a little confused…if the plan was to lure the kids out to get Cat killed early….why didn’t the Sword Saint interfere during the fight? The pilgrim intervened instead, when the Saint had already been shown to be able to smack Cat around.

    But in any event, the question is….how much of a powerup could Cat possibly get from her previous actions? The souls of all the men she drowned with Winter’s lake could make up a suitable source, but that would risk ‘committing’ her to a much more villainous path if she starts using souls as a power up.

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    1. Metalshop

      The only power up she needs is inside her already, no extra action required. Masego said it himself, godhood is a trick of perspective. And Cat is now submerged in a dream so fierce it’s warping her body, the first she’s had since becoming what she is now.

      Dollars to donuts she wakes up mean, with some new Winter trick.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Raved Thrad

      You know, that just might be it. It’s possible that the reason the two old heroes were pulled into this conflict is that Catherine is on the cusp of godhood — not necessarily Godhood, but the fae royals might as well have been gods. Right now, her body is fluid; if her body is a construct, it begs the question, who created the construct? Is it short because that’s how Catherine sees herself? What is the template that it re-moulds itself from when it is damaged?

      It’s possible that the shape of her body, construct or otherwise (deified? apotheosized?), as well as her powers, will all depend on the dream she’s in, and how that shapes or reshapes her mind and self.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Raved Thrad

        Slaughters, yes, but at what point has Catherine enslaved anybody? I’m pretty sure Hakram would have had strong words for her if she ever had.

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          1. Raved Thrad

            Hnh. Well, when you’re right, you’re right. I have no idea why that didn’t even register with me as slavery. I’m inclined to think it was the “…or die” part, but that makes no sense. I guess my sympathy for the characters (or a particular set of characters) is showing.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Yeah, I didn’t start thinking about ‘Cat from outside view’ until Pilgrim showed up. If you don’t know what we know about her she looks positively monstrous.

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          2. grzecho2222

            Gallowborne are penal company and henchwoman was war criminal that agreed to basicaly the same. There is a really big diffrence between this and slavery

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            1. Mr. Nobody

              Then you’re saying neither the Romans nor Egyptians never enslaved anyone, because forced labour with captives isn’t slavery, right?

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              1. Metrux

                They aren’t captives, they are people sentenced to death that she choose to extend life in exchange for work. Besides, while people are saing “she couldn’t be more villainous”, you must remember this ploy was first used by a ver famous HEROINE of Callow. Although things seem good and evil, they are Good and Evil, and every three episodes I have to remind people those are not the same. Also, Akua? She deserves this, and she isn’t obliged to serve or even compelled to, she choose this after defeat, while all Cat does is keep her soul confined, with the bonus of being able to partly release a spiritual form of her. Honestly, pretty close to actual prison in our world.

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  7. Sortale

    Typo post:
    “role she’d had free hand” *a* free hand?
    “still largely from from the three” one less “from”?
    “If you will not treat in good will” goodwill no space?
    “it should garner reaction” *a* reaction?
    “register as lie” as lying? as a lie?
    “Then I would request audience” *an*audience?

    “morals by her uprising” upbringing?

    “instilled her *with* a sense” not sure if “with” is correct
    “we may yet serve greater purpose” *a* greater purpose”
    “Imperfection was not sin” *a* sin?
    “The princess sought alliance with” *an* alliance? to ally?
    “Creation and faded and brutish” “a” instead of “and”?
    “remain under shroud of preservation” *a* shroud?
    “there was reason for it” *a* reason? reasons?

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  8. Muspellsheimr

    Strongly implied that Catherine will wake up before the battle is over.

    Regardless of when she wakes up, I speculate the nature of her catatonia will finally grant her a new Name when she does arise.
    I do not believe she is capable of a heroic Name, but neither do I expect ot to be a villainous Name. I am reasonably confident it will be something new entirely.

    Like

  9. Rook

    I feel like the biggest bomb under the Crusade’s feet is the exact story of five that usually comes to pass. Yes the shape of it’s there, and yes the pattern is a damn strong one, but it’s a very rigid one.

    As the Warlock demonstrated against the Wizard of the West in the past and as the Pilgrim himself demonstrated against Cat just recently, a rigid force is terrifyingly strong but the blacklash from the breaking of it is beyond terrible.

    At the end of the day the problem for the Crudade is that Cat is using a Villain’s methods while following a Hero’s story. She’s literally fighting for peace and to protect her loved ones. The Pilgrim admitted it as much himself.

    If that ends up being enough to break the standard story of five, it won’t matter if Cat turns into a monster. The feedback from the narrative alone is going to ruin the Crusade and everyone affiliated with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ya, i;m surprised that haven’t stopped with the whole crusade idea already because the narrative for them is already failure.
      Of ten Crusades maybe two sorta worked? The rest all seemed to have failed hard.

      Like

  10. RoflCat

    Random thought: What if Cat woke up and made similar declaration she did in the Prologue? Sixth time’s the charm yes?

    With such declaration that she’s willing to help them do their Crusade, then if they attack her then they’ll basically be revealing their ‘real’ objectives.

    Heck, she can even promise the Pilgrim similar expectation she had for Black to Praes with herself to Callow. A decade or so, to make Callow strong enough that it’s not the piss bowl when Good and Evil have a pissing match, even under heroic surveillance (GUESS WHO’S GETTING NOMINATED!?)

    A…less likely possibility, is Cat forming her own the Five, but not under the Above, nor Below, but of Creation’s.
    See, I get a feeling that Creation itself might have its own ideas, one that isn’t align with Above or Below.
    Like, say, it’d prefer this whole stupid Good vs Evil war over with, and guess who’s the girl trying to break that story?

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    1. Yotz

      Let’s see – Cat is a given; Masego cares not for Good nor Evil, he just wants to decompile everything and tinker with a source code; the Archer is here for shits, giggles, and Masego’s tight bollocks – Above and Below for her are just a positions during the intercourse; Vivienne is the Hero who fights other Heroes, and is in willing thrall of a Villain who plays role of the Hero – that, and the Thief being not very heroic Name to begin with, coming more from the dull everyday as opposed to the Ideals; Hakram is a Survivalist turned Bureaucrat – an a very fine one – all while retaining all the characteristic brutality of the former, he exists on the morality scale only partially compatible with Good/Evil dichotomy…

      Less likely, you say?..

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Raved Thrad

    “And that’s not a villain’s story, Tariq,” the woman grunted.

    It’s possible that the reason Catherine has yet to succeed to a new Name is precisely that. She’s a villain whose story is not that of a villain. Can it be that neither the gods above nor those below can see themselves giving her a Name, because they can’t figure out which side she’s on?

    As for the institutionalized blindness of the “good” side, I think I get it now: it’s when the Pilgrim tells Thief that she used to be a heroine. For him, there is only (nominally) good and (supposedly) evil. She is an enemy because she refuses to join in the march on Callow, never mind that she herself is Callowan. On Thief’s side of it, however, she _is_ a heroine. She is fighting for her people, her land, and those willing to do the same.

    The conflict between the two sides becomes a matter of arbitrary sides vs that of methods. The gooders think (or maybe have confirmation, who knows?) that they’re on the side of the heavens, so anyone who gets in their way, be they villain or soldier or peasant, is on the side of wrong and must die, if that’s what it takes. On the side of “evil” we have people who use decidedly villainous methods to do good. It’s the only reason that makes sense when the gooders keep complaining about how Catherine killed thousands. “Oh, we killed three thousand of _them_, it was a good thing. But she killed so many thousands of ours, what a horrible thing to do!” They cannot see that loss of life is loss of life, no matter the method or number: for them the only life with value, and thus counted as a loss of life when killed, are those on their side. On the other? Those are just casualties inflicted on the enemy. Not actual loss of life.

    If some little girl were helping a Legionnaire to his feet and a crusader bowman shot her dead, they’d count that as a casualty inflicted on enemy supporters, and thus the enemy.

    This is the most immoral interpretation of “good” I’ve ever seen. This makes the Kingpriest of Istar seem like a whiny little boy. And it just makes me root all the harder for Team Evil. Or maybe just Team Cat. My black heart trembles in awe at the merest thought of Malicia and what she can do, but shit, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near her.

    On a tangent, I would like to see Ranger come and duke it out with the Saint of Swords. Heck, she could even die and the Saint live — that would just turn up the dramatic tension even higher. I just think it would be interesting to see who’s _really_ the meanest sword-wielding bitch in the land.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. TeK

      As per Godwin’s law, I have to ask you to compare Praes to Axis, Crusade to Allies, and repeat your whining about “life for life” without batting an eye. It doesn’t matter whether comparison holds. The loss of life is a loss of life, and you should feel bad about the tragic fate Hitler. Where’s your heart, people?

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      1. Raved Thrad

        Whining, is it? I’ll remind you that Hitler was actively moving against the rest of the world. Callow, on the other hand, just wanted to be left alone. It’s one thing to be exporting war to the rest of the world, it’s entirely another to be sitting at home, looking at an invading force wanting to divvy up your land “for the greater good” when all you want is to get on with your life. Your whataboutism citing Godwin’s Law would only work if Hitler had been peaceably sitting at home, ramping up his forces, and doing nothing untoward when the Allies invaded. Or maybe you think Cat’s refusing to die and killing all the assassins they sent against her is an acceptable pretext for war? “We came here to invade your land, kill you, dispossess your people, and divvy up your kingdom. How dare you refuse to die and kill so many of our people?!? You must be a villain!”

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        1. TeK

          WW2 metaphor is more apt than you may think. Cat’s no Hitler, Malicia is. Procers plan to divide Callow between them is no different than Allies dividing Europe between US and USSR. Reichs armies consisted of conquered nations as well, even if Hitlers warlord ruling conquered country is not exactly as bad as Hitler, it does not make him good, or, ya know, exempt from the whole killing thing. Crusade is much more a prefentive strike, at least in respect to Callow, especially in the world where having Villain ruling a country corrupts said country. Some people of “liberated” countries actually fought the Allies. Now that I think about, Callow really reminds me of Poland. Abandoned in the wake of Hitlers conquests, help denied, later invaded and partitioned by a mighty neighbor (Procer). Good Lord!

          Admittedly, it’s more of a joke that got a little out of hand, so how about I apologise for my uncouthness and we leave it at that?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Raved Thrad

            Accepted. Your graciousness in offering apology is rare these days, especially on the ‘net, and I honor you for it. I’ll admit you got my dander up with that quip about whining. I guess it just shows how passionate we are about this story.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. RanVor

            I’m sorry to revive this conversation, but I feel compelled to point out that Malicia didn’t want this war to happen either. The crusade is a preemptive strike against a blow that wasn’t even intended to land. The comparison between Callow and Poland is more than apt, though.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. TeK

              Well someone’s out to be the Hitler. And exactly against what preemptive strike that is Crusade is launched is told by Grey, I think. With Callow being lead by Villain, it’s evil, with such a major bullwark turning coat, Procer is weakened, and when Prcoer loses, everyone loses. Continuing the metaphor, presume that Hitler was a tad more realistic, and understood that he can’t win the wars to follow, so he stopped at his conquest of Poland, and solidified his positions. While Allies got their shit together and finally launched preemptive strike. Unfortunally, pissed off Polish people are angry at them for betrayal, so they actually resist the Allies.

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              1. Yotz

                You need not to involve theoretical possibilities with Poland – during Warsaw Uprising Armia Krajowa threatened to kill any Soviet who they see in the city. That is, until the thing went south for them. Then they begged for assistance. While implying that Soviets must help them, die for them, then skeedaddle away as soon as possible, because noble Poles will not tolerate godless commies in the borders of their glorious land. Said borders including two thirds of the Ukraine on the eastern side, half of the Baltic states, a chunk of Czechoslovakia, contested city of Danzig…

                Not like this attitude was something new for them – guess what led Catherine the Second to make a toilet seat out the throne of the Polish kings?..

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                1. TeK

                  I did not glorify anyone. I’m very much aware of what Polish-Russian relationship were like. Unfortunately, I’m also Russian, and that makes my perspective tainted, so I try my hardest not to make any definitive statements, or, at all.

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                  1. grzecho2222

                    I’m Polish and I as much as I think that are a lot of similarities between Callow and Poland, this looks less like WWII and more like WWI if it happened way earlier, during Bismarck. More shady politics and way less killing civilians.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Yotz

                      I concur. Though, Callow being a protagonist nation with a salad of different characteristics, I think many of Russian readers would see Callow as primarily Russia-inspired. More specifically – Kievan Rus. The Story truly is a universal constant where humans involved, I suppose.

                      But yeah – for all the good democratically elected mr. Schicklgruber had made (and he actually managed to do some), significant part of his philosophy, actions, and goals are seen today as outright Evil, which makes for an easy excuse to colour sides of WW2 with clean primaries. The Great War was, in contrast, an ungodly mess of everything and everyone. I dimly remember reading somewhere pilots actually keeping to idealistic knightly Code of Honor, behaving like ideal gentlemen of the Round Table, all while the Trenches were slowly rotting below, and generals actually being honestly horrified by the consequences of Ypres – and then proceeding to order even more of the same. A War of Arseholes it was, truly.
                      If it to happen earlier – in Bismarck’s age – well, given that herr Otto was a _very_ special character, who was noted for being brutally honest _and_ machiavellian… It honestly seems to me, that he’d try to resolve the conflict entirely through shady politics, actual shooting being a waste of resources, and all that.

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                    2. TeK

                      I mostly used WW2, because it’s pretty much the only war where bad guys and good guys are universally agreed, and yet both sides are not so clearly monchromic in the slightest. I can’t see how it’s more like a WW1. Who’s Franz Ferdinand in your metaphor? Aqua?

                      @Yotz
                      Callow and Kievan Rus couldn’t’ve been less alike. Where did you see similarities?

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                    3. grzecho2222

                      Russia and Prussia were both trying to buy support of Polish people, while fighting in Poland. All of it while Piłsudski (who has a lot of similarties to Cat, who is more brutal and more positivistic female version of him) was playing everyone including Japan to reestablish Poland as independent country in the besst position he could. Assasination was just the catalist for decades of political stress and it seems like we will see some rebellions before Crusade will end

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                    4. Yotz

                      @TeK
                      Land that stands between the enlightened Europe and authoritarian Horde, formally belonging to former but never fully accepted, divided in several nearly independent princedoms under the formal rule of the Great Prince; self-actualization as a ‘Shield’ between Europe and the Horde; The Yoke; trade route from Varangians on the North to the coalition of free cities of the South…

                      Don’t know, some vague impression, probably nothing…

                      Like

              2. werafdsaew

                To continue with the analogy, the dictator who’s in charge of Poland agrees to step down and hold free elections, and allow the allies unimpeded passage to Nazi Germany. Her only condition was that Poland remains a free and independent country. The allies refused, however, because America was controlled by evil corporations who wants to divide Poland up for their oil.

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                1. grzecho2222

                  Piłsudski proposed to help White Guard (followers of Tsar) destroy Lenin and his Red Army, if they will agree that Poland is independent nation. They refused and told him that if he helps they will opress Poland little less. He disagreed and in the end Lenin crushed White Guard

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            2. Even if Malicia didn’t want to use it, eventually she is going to get the knife and her successor will be one of the batshit insane villains who wants to be the next coming of Triumphant, and they WILL use it. That is, ultimately, Praes’ story even more than its invading of Callow. No amount of politicking and poison will save Malicia from that fate – especially since Catherine resolved to take her down in order to make the Liesse Accords work. Whatever they happen to be.

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              1. RanVor

                That’s very likely. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) punishing people for things their successors may or may not do in the future is not an acceptable behavior in most civilizations. Procer is apparently an exception.

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                1. It’s not about punishment, it’s about taking a weapon of mass death and destruction away from the hands of an unstable society that will inevitably give rise to a leader willing to use it.

                  So they don’t, y’know, kill millions and millions of people, petty things like that. How dare those asshole heroes get in the way of a villain’s gods given right to genocide?

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                  1. RanVor

                    If you didn’t notice, this weapon doesn’t exist anymore. Furthermore, the people dying in this war against nonexistent threat are the very same people who were sacrificed to allow its creation in the first place.

                    Also, by your logic, we should invade Russia because it’s a nation known for spawning warmongering dictators and there’s a shitload of nuclear weapons stored in there.

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                    1. It doesn’t matter, Praes has shown the capacity and willingness to combine their newfound efficacy and capacity to create super weapons in such a way that they’re more of a threat than they’ve ever been before. Then add on the fact that Praes has other mass destruction capabilities by way or Warlock and you see how the rest of Calernia has every good reason to smash Praes into dust.

                      And yes, it would probably be a good idea to prevent a country like Russia from getting those kinds of weapons, if not for the fact that they already have them making removing them impossible. Despite my disagreements with US foreign policy, I do not think that nuclear weapons is something that we should just shrug and let countries pursue.

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                    2. TeK

                      Praes had WMDs for a really long ammount of time. Malicia said so herself – she had five or six weapons of the same calibre as Liesse, at least two of which are leftovers of other Emperors. At it’s core, WMD in-verse require ungodly amount of resources (which Praes has), a wealth of magical knowledge (onto which Praes has sort of monopoly amongst humans), and centralised goverment capable of combining the two. The possibility to create one was always there, and unless crusaders will butcher every living soul east of Hwaerte, it will stay that way. This Crusade is nothing more than poorly planed reactionism, that lashes out without any clear goal in mind, or, with goal, but said goal having absolutely nothing to do with their warcry.

                      The same with nuclear weapons. I personally think that nobody should have it, but the cat is out of the box, and creation of those is not really a big secret, which is punctuated by NK developing one for itself. If nobody will have it, everyone will try to make one, to fill created power vacuum. So someone should have a WMDs, if only to dissuade someone less stable of creating one. And there is no country with which I would’ve felt save wielding such power singlehandendly. While Russia is bad enough, but we all know the only country to ever use nuclear weapons in wartime, eh? Current situation is a best possible solution, believe it or not. Checks and balances, isn’t it right?

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                    3. Metrux

                      I actually see the US as worse than Russia for having nuclear weapons, they are the ones who actually used them, they are the ones who created wars for oil and, before that, joined a war simply because they couldn’t sell more guns without joining. Honestly, if you look at it objectively, the only reason the ONU and all countries in it haven’t done something about the US is because we became all dependent on them, and raising something against they risks the use of said mass destruction weapons. So, while it was righteous to fight against germany and russia, when it was to fight the United States they were simply too powerfull for a take down, and no one wants to be taken down together with them.

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                    4. RanVor

                      Ok, this conversation strayed somewhat far from my intended point, which is as follows: suspicion is not a valid reason for an invasion. I brought up nuclear weapons as an analogy to illustrate the fault in hoyboy’s logic (which they promptly ignored). I didn’t actually intend to discuss real-world situation.

                      Like

    2. Silverking

      I think the best way to describe it is “tribalism”; the worst guy on our team is inherently better than the best person on yours because “we’re the good guys.”

      Like

  12. TeK

    Okay. I have an interesting theory, and I like to dream:

    What if Peregrine’s play is to make Cat’s a Hero? Or not his, but someones (WB, looking at you). Ok, so first of all, the Black Queen is not a Black Queen, and she barely if not at all qualifies as a Squire – so she has no Name. Second, it was omitted by Saint, that waking up in the last moment to save her people is not a Villanous gambit – so why should it be? She still has Light inside her, and if we believe Grey, resurrection leaves scar on soul, making person see Creation as faded and brutish place – and so she wants to make it better. Also I want to touch the Saints compassion towards Cat, I read people chastising her for hypocrisy – but I think that she and Piligrim are seeing the makings of a great Hero inside Cat – yet one twisted and perverted against it’s own nature, little girl turned into a greater evil she picked her knife fighting. She Who Fights The Monster at it’s finest. After all, you always need to be polite to Abbys, and offer refreshments.

    Next is the five finest of heaven sent against great Evil. We got to likely candidates (Dead King and Triumphant), and some much less likely. Theorised band is comprised of Hanno, Champion, Saint, Piligrim, and possibly Witch. But nothing really stops Woe from becoming these five. Hear me out: we have no evidence that Hierophant is a Villanous name. We know for a fact that Thief is not automatically Villanous, and it’d been hinted that Archer is not in cahoots with Below as well. Adjutant is whatever Cat is, and so we come to fact, that Woe’s alignment is almost wholeheatedly depends on Cat’s one. So it’s not out of question for them to turn into Heroes. It also may have been hinted that Thief does not shine as bright being a Villain, so there’s that.

    What I think is going to happen, is that Saint will die, but will sever Cat from her mantle, forcing her to come into a Name – a Heroic one. Since Callow is now led by Hero, Crusade loses any legitimacy (at least in respect to Callow) it had left, some completely unexpected shit happens – it always does – and focus shifts on Red Vales, where Black and his crew meet their end, but bite Creation in the arse one last time, killing Witch, Hanno and his crew. Black maybe is saved by someone, possibly Ranger, but perhaps losing his power/Name in process.

    Shit goes down, and for the lack of better candidatures, Woe become the blade of Heavens, finally transcending all Calernian stories, where all races and nations and Calernia unite (with possible exemptions) against the final Big Bad.

    Like

          1. Mr. Nobody

            Yeah. Furthermore, as long as the name of this story is “Practical Guide to Evil” there probably will be no heroic Name for Catherine nor even an acknowledgement of Cat being some practical heroine misinterpreted by her enemies.

            Like

            1. TeK

              I will repeat the argument I made like a gazzilion chapters ago: if you’re playing the game so rigged, one side will always lose, and you are playing on that side, what is the most rational way to win?

              Like

              1. grzecho2222

                Cheat? Change game? While Callow is on the side of Good it is forced to play the Role of The Good Kingdom That Got Invaded, Oh So Sad, Where Our Heroes Can Fight Evil And Then Go Home, Black said it pattern of Callow is to be grasped and Cat wants to change this pattern into something else. Her becoming Hero would just make stronger.

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                1. TeK

                  Not really. While patterns are very strong inverse, they still have to be realistic, otherwise they will hurt the suspension of disbelief. Praes invaded as much because it’s teh Evil Empire, as because it’s starving. 20 years of conquest already established a pattern of cooperation and trade between two countries. Cat’s becoming a Hero of Peace will only reinforce this new pattern. As for where to spend excessive manpower – there are so many ways to slaughter thousands of people that eoes not involve invading Callow. Invading Praes, for one.

                  I have a theory. Creation doesn’t really need Good and Evil, it merely needs sides. So that there’ll be conflict. It can be Good vs Evil, Capitalism vs Communism, Orange Shorts vs Blue Pants, Winter vs Summer, Ranger vs Everyone, you name it. Getting invaded is not an Only Good Story about Callow. For example, if Praes is Good, they wouldn’t need to fight too, right? And they can make elves into enemies, or dwarfs, or Dead King, drow, mermaides, gnomes, the possibilities are nearly endless.

                  Like

      1. TeK

        She refused it because:
        a) Angels ask here to butcher her own people (Fifteenth)
        b) She still thought that she can work something out with Praes
        c) She had a Name, and a Villanous one at that
        Now she lost all hope in treating with Praes, at least as long as Malicia’s alive. She has no Name, and becoming a Hero will actually fix all her problems (well not all, but really a lot), like, for example, CRUSADE, constant Hero insurgencies, corruption of her own people. She was willing to murder, torture, for her people, she even mutilated her soul. Is switching coat really that big of a price to pay? I’ll be not suprised if it’s part of her ploy.

        Like

        1. RanVor

          Except being a Hero in this universe essentially means being a slave to the Heavens, i.e. the ones who wanted her to butcher her own people.

          Like

        2. Yeah TeK if Cat gets a Hero Name of any form it pisses *all over* the entire premise that Erratic is going for here. He’s too good of a writer to shoot himself in the foot like that, especially since at that point, he’d just basically be riffing and doing a new take on the worst parts of Worm.

          Additionally I point to the Dead King and the Yantei. “Villainy” doesn’t always lose in Creation so your premise that one side always loses is cast iron false.

          Like

          1. TeK

            Not really a strong argument when you try to get into creators head. Let me clarify something for ya: I’m not saying ghis will happen, more that I would like that to happen. I’m a sucker for the happy ending. And I really liked in Worm when Skitter became hero.

            But I do understand that my wish for everyone becomig friends and living happily ever after is not going to happen here. Just, what exactly stoping Cat from becoming hero? And why can’t Hero become a Dread Emperor of Praes, infusing two countries into completely new one? Given the peculiar Emperors out there, I won’t be surprised that for some time the title of Dread Emperor had been held by a royal chamberpot.

            Like

    1. Metrux

      Okay, so: Practical Guide to Evil, a stor about a little girl, lost on the clutches of Evil, learning of the world until she becomes a true Hero. No, I don’t see that coming. So yes, the Woes are whole behind Cat, no matter if Good or Evil, but the Woes are NOT the main point of her. The greater reason why she was still seen as Cat and not her Name is because she focus more on the common people than the Named, the way she sees the world, Named are fulcrums but only common people can generate true change. And since the Heavens themselves put people as dust in front of this strange Good “morality”, she will not align with them. She only chose Evil because any other choice would leave worse results.

      Think about hte beggining, it was never a villain with a heart of gold, or with a internal good side… She was always neutral. Black himself sayd she never had in her what it takes to be a Hero, because Hero is accepting, Villain is breaking, and she wants to change, which means break. Now, think of her soul interior, two clones, Evil and Good, but none trully her, while her own vision of her power is a beast, a violent, cruel and AMORAL creature, neither good nor evil.

      So, really, maybe a Hero would make a good story, but not this one. She is bound to be Evil or neutral by the end, and my only regret will be if she doesn’t break the Heavens and their rules before she dies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dany

        I wouldn’t take Black’s observations too seriously. He’s invested in Team Evil out of sheer pride and invested in manipulating Cat into being a Villain.

        Like

        1. Oh, of course. Not a single hero beyond the Five is leaving Callow with their head on their shoulders and their soul in Heaven. This Crusade ends with Heroic heads on spikes and their Aspects carved out to make shiny new trinkets for Catherine to stock up for the next person foolish enough to take a swing at her. It was just a theory.

          Like

  13. Eevin

    “Compassion’s not my wheelhouse, but whoever made her into what she is deserves a slow and painful death. She’s been twisted.”
    In the Red Flower Vales, Black senses the sudden impulse to be not-smug-at-all.

    Like

    1. Raved Thrad

      “All of a sudden, I felt like there was a blade at my neck, despite there clearly not being a blade. I got excited and looked about for Ranger, but she was not there.”

      Like

        1. Raved Thrad

          This might be TMI for some, but as I understand it, the codpieces on medieval armor had space for erections. Because apparently some people got hard while dealing gory death on the battlefield, and it’s not always quick or easy to get out of a full suit of armor.

          Like

          1. Unorginal

            Cod-pieces were rare on armor though, they were an article brought over from civilian fashion and were rarely used because one: other (just as effective) alternatives for family jewel protection existed and two: it made sitting on a horse awkward as hell. So chances are good that the BK has no cod-piece.

            Liked by 2 people

  14. Burnsy

    These two are going to get the shock of their long lives when Cat turns out to be one of the five (possibly dragging Maesgo along with her, grumbling and moaning).

    Also GP needs to be nerfed in the next edition. Too broken.

    Like

  15. Raved Thrad

    On second reading, one particular set of lines stands out for me:

    > “She killed thousands,” Laurence said. “And she’ll kill more, if she squeaks away here.
    > Compassion’s not my wheelhouse, but whoever made her into what she is deserves a slow
    > and painful death. She’s been twisted. No one sane would ever do what she did to her own
    > soul.”

    I couldn’t help but think of Catherine, in the voice of a certain beloved psychopath, saying “We do what we must because we can. For the good of all of us, except the ones who are dead.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What Saint and Pilgrim see as twisted Kat undoubtedly sees as acceptable sacrifices to protect her people. They cannot see that Cat does not follow the Gods Below but instead uses the tools and trappings they created for the good of her people. Frankly, this army reminds me of the Crusaders who sacked Byzantium because they were not the exact same faith as the Crusaders were.

      Like

      1. Raved Thrad

        Not just acceptable sacrifices, but acceptable tactics. We’ve already seen that Catherine is purposely limiting what she can do, because she’s not after the deaths of the crusaders so much as she wants the best for her people. She’s playing a longer game than the two old fogeys, who seem to see only as far as “subjugate Callow, destroy Praes, feel good about ourselves.”

        Should the Procerans manage to depose Catherine, the best they can hope for is for the rest of Callow to grudgingly obey their new overlords. I see that as unlikely to happen. First off, they’ll be imposing non-Callowan rule on Callowans, which the Callowans will not stand for. Evil Catherine (or her methods) may be, but she’s a _Callowan_ evil. Local girl done good by doing bad. And since the Procerans will undoubtedly be press-ganging Callowans into their army, if only to replace those already killed or fled, the situation tips ever closer to ruin. I can see them facing a peasant rebellion, getting mired in a Callow they thoughtlessly thought they could just parcel out among them. Whether the people rally for Catherine or they fight sporadically, disorganized, as a local resistance, they’ll still be chipping away at the Procerans’ men and timetable. And with such a narrative ongoing, who’s to say that a local hero might not, heaven forfend, rise up to rally the countryside against the invaders, heroes and all? The heroes might shrug at killing poeple in an army commanded by a villain, but what happens when they start having to murder freedom fighter guerillas who just want the invaders out of their country? What happens to the crusaders’ narrative then?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Callow won’t rebel in the name of Praes. They remember Diabolist. If Procer liberates them they will thank them kindly, find a Fairfax heir under a rock somewhere, and proclaim a new day begun.

          Callow may not rebel in the name of ANYONE. They lost a lot of people in William’s rebellion, then Akua’s genocide and now their forces are fighting Procer. I don’t think they have the manpower to do anything beyond the current forces backing Black Queen.

          Like

      2. All Villains just use the tools and trappings the God’s below created.
        Unlike Angels, Demons don’t command or offer aid. They have no scripture or churches that we’ve seen and dealings/rituals with them seem transnational, not personal.
        We really have no idea what it is the God’s Below are actually trying to do, except oppose those above.

        Like

        1. We really have no idea what it is the God’s Below are actually trying to do

          Considering that the common denominator among villains is killing, mass destruction, and causing suffering I think it might have something with killing, mass destruction and causing suffering.

          Like

          1. grzecho2222

            Common thing among villains is creating something stronger than themselfs (purposefully or not) Bellow seem like mentors that harass their students until they grow strong enough to fight back and they they are all smug how “now your training is finished”

            Like

            1. And then they’ve left the student as someone who will carry on the tradition of being a violent bullyboy with the excuse for making people stronger, so great job.

              Like

              1. grzecho2222

                Compared to teacher that is nice, but will teach you nothing and freak out when you don’t agree with them? Both of them are terrible choices for teacher

                Like

                1. But they are not equally terrible. One needs to go back to teachers college for remedial. The other needs to not be allowed anywhere near children and maybe should be in prison.

                  Like

                  1. Unorginal

                    If you guys go check PGtE’s Reddit page there is a whole thread dedicated to WOGs. Reading through it gives the sense that the Gods Above are about a stronger community together under the direction of heave (with additions of long-term GREATER GOOD planning.) Meanwhile, The Gods Below are about individualism mixed with cruelty and disregard for others.

                    (Mainly just plugging the Reddit page, seriously go there we always need more people.)

                    Like

                    1. Yotz

                      If I dare to invoke the shadow of Babilon 5?
                      Think of the conflict between the Vorlons and the Shadows, the former being rigid idealists heavenbent on the Scripture of Greatest Good, and the latter – brutal social darwinists, spreading conflict and suffering to facilitate the survival of the fittest.

                      Above follows the maxim of “Right makes might”, and would be building a Divine Mechanism, where each small part is significant, but have not freedom of any kind save for the freedom to follow the Scripture. The amount of resources is limited, therefor each member of the community should limit him/herself in the consumption, for only together they will have enough power to gather enough resources for the community to continue to grow, and overall growth of the community is the only thing that will allow individual parts to grow. And any step from the clearly defined Path is treated like a decease – for it is cancerous in nature indeed – and will be cured with mandatory injection of the Greater Good.
                      The only thing that keeps them from implementing that, is that humans are not ideal by the nature, being the mix of the two Primatii, and will always seek ways to improve their situation at the expense of someone whom they can find an excuse to treat this way.

                      Below follows the maxim of “Might makes right”, and would give everyone _absolute_ freedom to jump-start the Grand Evolution. Let weak feed on weak, that we may divine the nature of strength, and all that jazz. Of course there would be bloodshed and oppression – the amount of resources is limited, to allow yourself to grow you’ll need them, and if you try to be nice and stuff, someone more fit will consume them, leaving you and the ones you shew mercy for on the side of the Path, or being trampled over by the ones who’ll not shy of the actions. You don’t want to cut throats and bully the weak to acquire resources? Boo-hoo, cry me a river! That’s an order, by the way – start crying, or I’ll make you.
                      The only thing that keeps them from implementing that, is that if Atlas shrugs, the World will crush him, and everything would be better for that, full stop. That, and the little insignificant things like ‘compassion’ and ’empathy’. Heart is the most awesomest power, you know…

                      Like

                    2. grzecho2222

                      That’s why Hierarchs insane democracy and Cats positivism have surfaced, both Above and Bellow visions of how world should work clash horribly with free will and you can’t change them.

                      Like

                    3. Dany

                      I think it’s interesting that people assume the Gods Above and the Gods Below are not on the same team re: whether the gods should direct humans.

                      This is a story about a world with cyclical, unbreakable, Good vs. Evil conflict, and Villains are as bound by their names as anyone else. The gods opposed to interference are presumably…not interfering.

                      Like

  16. Hardric62

    One resurrection by day, uh… The ‘Gods’ aren’t even trying to make this look balanced (and I say ‘Gods only, I’ve got the sneaking suspiscion the ‘Good’/’Evil’ pissing contest is the only difference between the two sides, if that’s not just one running both sides for shit and giggles). And I find this funny they moan about a soul destroyed when the Pilgrim explicitly says that resurrection scars the soul… Or the fact the only difference between him and a necromancer is that the ‘Gods’ approve when he does it.

    The more I see the ‘Good’ in this story, the more they look like the joyous and murderous followers of Law of Shin Megami Tensei. The angels certainly play the part, and the purging they do in the name of the ‘Gods’ is getting always bigger and bigger (the Law side is generally the one starting the genocides of the ‘unclean’ in SMT…)…

    Not that ‘Evil’ is better, as we saw again and again in this series. And the cutthroat mentality for supreme power here mirrors SMT Chaos fine too…

    Meaning there is only one thing left… Embrace Neutrality, and mankind first, and begin to punch expired godlings in the mouth until they give up their sick little games. The Bard will be a good start.

    Go for it Foundling, break them! Although twisting the game to make all this nice and shiny crusaders the ‘Evil’ side would be a really good start.

    Like

  17. Saragh

    Is there any chance that, in the absence of any other fae type Cat absorbed both powers active on the field, the duchy of Moonless Nights and the Duchy of Noon Sun. What’s happening could be the two powers warring inside her. Not sure what the implications would be.

    Like

    1. Raved Thrad

      As I remember it, Sulia of High Noon was freed of her bindings when the Summer Queen called all her fae back to her side for Cat’s parlay.

      Like

    2. Vhostym

      People seem to keep commenting on the Pilgrim stealing Masego’s sorcery, and using Summer power to attack the portal. But based on the phrasing in Pirouette where the Pilgrim creates his own star to split the power of the sun, it’s much more likely that the Pilgrim has a star related aspect that he used. Especially since he seems to be modelled almost completely after Gandalf (one of the Istari).

      So I’m pretty sure there’s no unexpected summer influence on Cat’s soul right now, though other influences can’t be discounted. However, similarly to what we saw in Book 3 where Cat was displaying much less power than you’d expect from a Duchess of Winter, she’s still not acting on the level of what we saw of the Queen of Summer. So there’re probably some decent power grabs she could take if she’s willing to shoulder the cost.

      Like

      1. narcoduck

        “I do not fear wicked men, who know only cruelty and pain. The fear they inflict leashes them as well. But a decent man? Oh, there is no limit to the devilry a decent man will fall to, if he believes it necessary.”
        —King Edward Alban III of Callow, best known for annexing the Kingdom of Liesse

        What if instead of Summer’s Sun like we all thought, he called upon the power of an angel to break Cat’s portal. Thousands of crusaders were dying in moments, and thus he believed it necessary to break the agreement. That could be why he appears so weak now (breaking a deal with a Fae and the strain of calling upon the Heavens).

        Nominally, King Alban’s quote is for the breed of villains like Cat. Are we going to see what a Practical Hero looks like?

        Liked by 2 people

  18. Polite Cultist

    Er… I forget, is the Archer doing something? Like, has Cat sent her off to do her malevolent bidding?

    Or is she capital A Absent?

    Because uh… Demon running amok.

    Like

    1. grzecho2222

      And nobody realized that they are missing, unless they, this two Heroes and whoever else got missing are still fighting Demon.

      Like

  19. Draeysine

    “She killed thousands “

    Bruh, so have you. Is it an efficiency issue? Should nobody be able to drop a bomb? I don’t understand how blind people can be. What are they putting in that Good-Aid ?

    Like

  20. Forrest

    I would point out that in the game of war they are playing, the crusade is playing as a finite player, while Cat is playing as an infinite player. Just another angle to look at this in.

    Like

  21. letouriste

    good try thief, at least now pilgrim know you have brandy. if that is not the setup of a pivot right there, i don’t know what this is:)

    Like

  22. So the Procerans are going in for day 2 of battle. They are going to lead the charge with nine heroes (since one is awaiting resurrection and two are in reserve) and have lost one-fifth of their army.

    Oh and the best part: they have to charge through a swamp land covered where the corpses of over nine thousand men and women are awaiting.

    The enemy is fresh, massively outnumbered in Named and troops, they have proved they can’t stand against the two big monsters, and two of the Woe are unaccounted for, their cause is righteous because they defend their lands against a rapacious enemy wanting to grab their kingdom for sheer cupidity and greed. The Saint of Swords and the Grey Pilgrim have proven they’re more or less unbeatable with the ‘help’ provided by the Heavens.
    Even when a Hero is slain, he’s going to be resurrected in the next minutes or days, making all sacrifices useless.
    The Priests of Light are here to corral the Callowans, killing them in all but name and making a mockery of their vows.

    Story-wise, I would not be anxious if I was in the Crusader army. I would be flat-out terrified.

    Whatever happens now, the possibility of retreat on this terrain is very low. Mobility is going to be severely hampered. And if it fails and they retain a big part of their army? Massive starvation because Heaven or Hell, every army needs to eat and a big battle is devouring supplies at a horrifying speed…

    This is all or nothing; we are certainly going to watch the Graveyard of Princes and Heroes in the next chapters…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. grzecho2222

      They are going around from two sides, also I’m not sure if you can ressurect away goblinfire, also this seems to be Battle of Camps

      Like

  23. Jeez, if Cat and Masego don’t wake up the Callowans are going to be absolutely massacred. Juniper has no answer to even the minor heroes, and Saint/Pilgrim will paint the land red with no Named to stand against them.

    Maybe the speculation about the psychopath prince actually being Assassin here to cost the Crusaders the favor of the Heavens by sacking Hedges is correct? I dunno. It seems like the army is about to be obliterated. With no fair gates to escape they will be slaughtered to the man.

    Like

  24. Black knight, Warlock, Captain, Assasin, Scribe
    Cat, Adjutant, Hierophant, Archer, Thief
    Making of five
    So five is the maximum size of a party for Nameds

    Like

  25. Stephen M (Ethesis).

    Juniper either fights at the barricades or leaves a rear guard and staged a fighting withdrawal.

    The staggered withdrawal makes it hard when the starvation hits the attackers.

    I’m really curious to see what she does.

    I’d have decamped during the night.

    Make them chase me and starve.

    But then I’d have created a winter court to give me fae to balance against heros.

    Anyway it should be interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They have to defend Hedges, though, so they can’t retreat very far. And IIRC Catherine didn’t want to retreat all the way to Hedges because she wanted to minimize the damage the invaders would do as they traveled.

      Like

      1. I get that they have to defend Hedges to an extent, but the “good” side is down to two days of food and then starvation.

        And the parties have agreed to avoid civilian pillaging and destruction.

        Again, I don’t know what Juniper would will do. But in this situation, in these facts, I would be staging a fighting withdrawal. A shadow rear-guard at the palisades to delay things. But the majority of the troops would have withdrawn in the night.

        I would so dearly love the Wild Hunt to harry the back of the crusade (since the heroes will be at the front) — but that would have taken a liason that would work with them even after Cat went comatose. If I were the warlord/field marshal I’d have wanted that.

        And, of course, the two missing named ….

        So.

        First, I don’t know what the author will do. I expect surprises.

        Second, I don’t know what Juniper will do in the context. It doesn’t appear that she is focused on using starvation and attrition as her major tools.

        But, Third, I thought I’d just state what I would have done if I were commanding. I’ll bet that Juniper does better than I would have.

        Like

  26. Nerfnow

    Jacques Milenan, a younger cousin to the Prince of Iserre. His mother was… from an Alamans royal line, though she could not recall which one at the moment.

    Demon strikes again, did it cross borders into porcer by the stairway?

    Like

  27. Lot of comments, don’t know if anyone else has said it, but it seems confirmed that a person can have more than one Name. Still apparently only three Aspects, but I’m sure there’s more than one advantage to having an additional Name.

    Like

  28. Yanno,
    I’m starting to feel like Good has entirely too many edges. The ONE material edge that Evil was supposed to have, not aging, ergo retaining their health and physical vigor…and the Saint gives the lie to it parkouring through the sky by cuts in Reality. If old Heroes fight like eighteen year olds, Evil doesn’t get any advantage from being unaging, since they never live past their natural spans anyways.

    An upcoming resurrection two days after death. Another done despite the damage being done in a no-Light zone. There really, REALLY doesn’t feel like there’s anything Equal And Opposite in Good and Evil. In fact, I can’t even imagine how things like Praes and the Keter ever manage to originate in the first place. In every single potential aspect of conflict, Good is not only superior, but flatly and inarguably so.

    I haven’t been thrilled with the Crusade-writing so far. They already had double the troops, three times the Heroes versus Villains, AND two Ranger-Class Heroes among them…there’s creating a bleak situation for the underdog to triumph over at the 11th hour, and then there’s just Too Much. I’d really like to see the throttle eased off on Good some. The Pilgrim managed to break the work of TWO villains, and he’s just a bit tired for it (which conveniently didn’t include any meaningful disadvantage for him).

    Still reading, but this plot arc is palling for me.

    Like

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